Accessible D.C.

This journal contains reviews of places I visited with my brother, during his weekend visit to D.C., as well as some comments on wheelchair accessibility.

Accessible D.C.

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by kwasiak on March 3, 2006

While studying in D.C. for a semester, my brother, who uses a wheelchair for traveling and touring, and Dad came to visit for a long weekend. During their visit, we saw the monuments and memorials on the Mall. We also visited the National Museum of the American Indian, which was of particular interest to my brother, who was in the middle of a unit on Native Americans at school. We also visited the Botanical Gardens and saw Sheer Madness at the Kennedy Center.${QuickSuggestions} If you want to go to the top of the Washington Monument, be sure to arrive early in the day to get a timed entry ticket. You can get one for later in the day and go see the other monuments and memorials on the mall or go to a Smithsonian Museum until it is your time. Also, be ready to go through security at the Washington Monument, all Smithsonians, and various other sites. Sometimes at the Smithsonian they just check bags and the metal detectors are off, while other times the detectors are on.${BestWay} The Metro is handicap accessible and a great way to get around. Sometimes the elevators can be hard to find. Make sure you pay attention to where the elevator comes out, because it is often nowhere near the actual Metro entrances. Also, be sure to pay attention to elevator outages and find out from what stop to get off at if you need a shuttle to the stop with an elevator outage. The elevators say to give priority to those with wheelchairs, strollers, and bikes, as these cannot things are banned from escalators, but unfortunately there are times when people that have none of the above pack into the elevator before you and you have to wait for it to come back. It can be quite annoying, especially if you are getting off at night at a hot party stop, which is unfortunately where our hotel was located, and every night we had to wait for the next elevator, as party/bar goers packed into the elevator before us. Most people are nice and give you priority, so, overall, it is not a problem.

The Memorials on the National Mall

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by kwasiak on March 4, 2006

One afternoon we walked along the Mall from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, visiting the World War II Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and Korean Memorial along the way. We got to the Lincoln Memorial around sunset and had a beautiful view of the Washington Monument in the Reflecting Pond.

The World War II Memorial is the newest monument on the Mall, being dedicated on May 29, 2004. As you enter the Memorial from the main entrance, on the sides are reliefs with scenes from the war. The main feature of the memorial are the 56 pillars with the names of the US states and territories, along with District of Columbia, that helped in the war effort as part of the US contribution to the Allied Forces. The Memorial is amazing to see during the winter, though I imagine it is even more amazing during the summer, when the fountain is going.

The Vietnam Memorial is very touching, with its V-shaped black wall containing the names of those who died in what became a long and controversial war. Nearby are the two less-famous parts of the memorial, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial and the Three Servicemen Statue.

The Korean Memorial is what my dad considers the most haunting memorial. The statues of soldiers are very lifelike, and due to the way they reflect in the wall, it appears that there are many more there.

The Lincoln Memorial is one of the main points of the D.C. compass being the west point of it. At the memorial, we read the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Second Inauguration speech that are on the walls. My brother was most interested in how Lincoln’s hands are in the shape of ‘A’ and ‘L’ in American Sign Language. The sculptor’s son was deaf and made Lincoln’s hands signing Abraham Lincoln’s initials.

Two other memorials along the south side of the Mall are the DC War Memorial and the John Paul Jones Memorial. You can also detour south of the Mall and go to the FDR Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial.

The closest Metro, if you start at the Washington Monument, is Smithsonian, served by the Blue and Orange Lines. If you start at the Lincoln Memorial, the closest Metro is Foggy Bottom, also served by the Blue and Orange Lines. I do not recommend Foggy Bottom, as some routes from there are not very handicap accessible and even for walkers there are places where you can barely fit on the sidewalk. I recommend that you start and end at the Smithsonian Metro and walk along the north side of the Mall one way and the south side on your way back.
National Mall & Memorial Parks
900 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, D.C., United States, 20024
(202) 426-6841

Washington Monument

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by kwasiak on March 4, 2006

My only memories of my first trip to DC, when I was 6, was going to the top of the Washington Monument and knocking over a cardboard Bill Clinton. Since then I have been back to DC several times, but have not been able to get to the top, due to various reasons such as its renovation and not arriving early enough for tickets. The weekend my brother and Dad came to visit me while studying in DC, I decided to make sure we went to the top, as the only other time my brother had been to DC was during its renovation. They got tickets in the morning for us to go to the top after my classes on Friday.

In my opinion, to truly experience DC, you must see it from above. It is also the only way to truly see the compass layout of important sites with the Washington monument at its center, and the Lincoln Memorial, White House, Capitol, and Jefferson Memorial as the four points. We were lucky enough to go on a day that was clear, and we were able to see the whole city very well.

To go to the top of the Washington Monument you must get a timed entry ticket. You can get them for free by arriving early enough in the day before they run out. Tickets run out early in the day, depending on the demand. In the winter it is not as much of a problem, but in the seasons when there are more tourists, such as in the summer, they run out early. I believe you can also get timed entry tickets online for a small service charge.

Being the tallest structure in DC, the Washington Monument offers the best view of the city, but if you are unable to get a ticket to enter you can get a good view from the Old Post Office Pavilion. Also, for those in wheelchairs, it can be hard to see out the windows. My brother was given a large periscope to help, but it still was hard to get it high enough to view anything but the sky. For those that can stand with support there is a bar and steps in front of the windows, which he used to get a view. It just takes some patience to wait for people to move away from the windows with stairs, of which there is one for each side. The other window just has a bar, which works fine for taller people.
Washington Monument
Near the Center of the National Mall
Washington, D.C., 20024
(202) 426-6841

National Museum of the American Indian

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by kwasiak on March 6, 2006

The National Museum of the American Indian is located on the National Mall. The closest metro stop is Federal Center SW, which is located on the Blue and Orange Lines. The L’Enfant Plaza Stop is also nearby and is served by the Blue, Orange, Yellow, and Green lines. My suggestion is, if you are coming from the Red line that is usually less of a hassle changing to the Yellow or Green at Chinatown, then trying to change to the Blue or Orange at Metro Center, which is often crowded and hard to maneuver in, especially with a wheelchair. The museum is open every day of the year, except Christmas, from 10am to 5:30pm.

The museum is made up of three main exhibits: Our Peoples, Our Universes, and Our Lives. The museum also has two theaters. The Lelawi Theater shows a short presentation titled, Who We Are. The main theater holds special lectures and events throughout the year. The museum also has a café that offers a selection of Native American food.

The Our Peoples: Giving Voice to Our Histories exhibit gives a you a brief idea of Native American history since Columbus arrived in 1492. This exhibit contains some amazing wall artifact display cases. One of the first things you noticed upon entering is a case filled with gold items. Also, on display are guns used in the history of relocating Native Americans, in particular the guns used by Geronimo and the Apaches. This exhibit also contains small areas that give the history perspective of certain tribes. I found the exhibit on the Tohono O’odham that live in the Tucson area interesting, however it failed to make clear how the importance of their basketry, which is very well known. This made me question how accurately the tribes were being portrayed.

The Our Universes: Traditional Knowledge Shapes Our World exhibit gives the different spiritual beliefs on human interaction and the universe for different tribes. It tells of the spiritual role in daily life, as well as in ceremonies and celebrations.

The Our Lives: Contemporary Life and Identity explores the way the Native Americans live in the 21st century. It explored the way that the 21st century circumstances affect their native way of life, how their way of life has changed, and the challenge to preserve their culture and identity.

The museum can get rather crowded and there are times when you will need to obtain a timed entry ticket. The crowds, can make maneuvering in some the exhibits with a wheelchair very hard, as some spaces are already so small. The elevators on the other hand are very large, and despite it being the only way between floors for everyone, you rarely have to wait long. We arrived at the museum when it opened and the crowds were minimal, but by the time we left after lunch it was pretty crowded. This was the off season for tourists, so I can imagine this museum gets pretty bad during peak season.
Smithsonian Institution: National Museum of the American Indian
Fourt Street and Independence Avenue on the National Mall
Washington, DC, 20024
(202) 357-1300

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